During the Christmas holidays, many of us spend extra time with friends and family. Sometimes we get offended. How do we respond? This is a timely post by Renee Pomarico, a Catholic missionary living in Mexico. Renee has BA in Education and Development from Anahuac University, as well as a Licentiate in Religious Sciences from Regina Apostolorum in Rome. She works with young women who are discerning a vocation to religious life.
No matter the particular circumstance, we all face situations where we need to forgive. A spouse backs out of a commitment, a son or daughter lacks respect, a friend stabs us in the back, a brother shames the family, a coworker offends us, or a parent isn’t there when we need them.
Forgiveness is more than words like, “I’m sorry,” “I apologize,” and “Will you forgive me?”
Forgiveness is an attitude of the heart.
Immaculée Ilibagiza suffered torment and three months trapped in bathroom with nine other women during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Immaculée shared that she could not pray the part of the Lord’s prayer that reads “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us,” because she could not really do it in her heart. Yet, she knew deep down that God wanted her to forgive. Immaculée’s prayer became one of asking God for the grace of forgiveness and when He changed her heart, she was able to forgive from within.
Words are meaningless if resentment remains.
Mother Teresa said, “If we admit that we are sinners and we need forgiveness, then it will be very easy for us to forgive others. But if we don’t admit this, it will be very hard for us to say, ‘I forgive you’ no matter who comes to us. Jesus taught us how to forgive out of love, how to forget out of humility.”
Here are a couple of examples:
- Love – A man reflected on how he brushed aside his son’s request for attention when preoccupied with getting to work, and saw the hurt in his wife’s eyes. Instead of trying to forget about it and move on, he called home during his lunch break to ask for forgiveness. Love enables us to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. (Gallagher, 2012 p. 90).
- Humility – A young woman from Singapore living in the United States was unable to forgive her father for the way he treated her in the past. Despite his attempts to reconcile, spend time with her, and begin again, she refused to forgive until she heard the words, “I’m sorry.” Her father’s way of manifesting apology was not by words. When she finally realized that, she was able to humbly accept his attempts at reconciliation and rebuild her relationship with her father. (Elmer, 2006 p.148-150).
Despite the struggles that forgiveness entails, God gives the grace when we look to Him for strength. After all, he is the one who went through the greatest suffering on the cross and still forgave his enemies, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34).
Elmer, D. (2006). Cross-cultural servanthood: Serving the world in Christlike humility. Madison, WI: Intervarsity Press.
Gallagher, T. I. (2012). The discernment of spirits. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company.
Ilibagiza, I. (2007). Left to tell. USA: Hay House.
Mother Teresa. Retrieved from: http://iskandar.com/waleed911/motherteresa.html
Royalty-free image by Eng Chun Chia; retrieved from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1390217